Food For Thought: A Cuisinal Reprise for Kim Yu-na
As the first female figure skater to achieve the "grand slam-" winning the World Grand Prix Final, Four Continents Championships, World Championships and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics- this proves to be another victory not only for the figure skater, but also for South Korea.
Appointed by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry and Fisheries, Kim Yu-na will promote many local hansik consumables. In the past, the MIFAFF has used a number of similar tactics to further the awareness of hansik. Global Hansik, another program under the wing of the Ministry of Food, wants to create a 50 billion fund to open Korean cooking classes to culinary schools, including France’s Le Courdon Bleu and the Culinary Institute of America. Ultimately, the government hopes to advance the number of Korean restaurants to 40,000 by 2017.
As noted in a previous column, utilizing the reputation of Kim Yu-na would be the best publicity stunt for South Korea cuisine; and now that prediction and wish has come into fruition. Although Kim will not be used in promotional events, she will be utilized in photographs and a number of media conferences with foreign reporters. Such measures may be the much needed push that make Korean cuisine an omnipresent fixture of global food.
Kim Yu-Na already endorses a number of large companies, including Nike, Hyundai Motors, and Kookmin Bank. For many of the companies, Kim Yu-na’s products have had a substantial impact on profits. For example, the Yuna Phone sold a million units 7 months, which set a Samsung record.
Kim Yu-na’s notoriety can be found not only in Korea, but also on a global front as well. She was ranked first among Korea‘s most powerful Koreans. Beating out notorious bands like Big Bang, Wonder Girls and Girl's Generation; it’s obvious that Kim Yu-na remains influential among young Koreans. Kim Yu-na also remains known for her athleticism and grace, rare qualities difficult to come by in famous role models. On a global scale, Yu-na remains marked for her accomplishments and presence in ice skating. She was hailed as a “hero” in Time magazine’s most influential people.
"Just as people around the world have been fascinated by Kim's beautiful jumps and fantastic performances, I expect that they will be attracted by the charm of Korean foods thanks to Kim's efforts," said Agriculture Minister Chang Tae-pyong in a recent article from the Korean Herald.
Hopefully, Tae-pyong’s predictions become a reality. The influence of Kim Yu-na at this optimal time, the height of her career, provides an ample opportunity to push the presence of Korean food around the world to the 40,000 restaurant mark.
Also, it may potentially reinforce Korea’s cultural and food identity. With the powerful allure of Western conformity, many new fast-food and cuisine has begun to fade out Korean restaurants. More and more fast-food chains emerge everyday in parts of Seoul and Korea, as local ajumma/ajusshi restaurants are torn down. Through the efforts of such a leader among Korean culture, perhaps hansik will be categorized in the polarizing categories of “old” or “new” - instead, Korean cuisine will become timeless.